UK box office January 11-13 (Blog)

Category: P.S. I Love You News | Posted by: DaisyMay
Article Date: January 17, 2008 | Publication: | Author: Staff

Romanian film 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days has pursued a novel release strategy in the UK, playing for a week on two London screens in advance of its official national release on January 11. The consequence was that most reviews ran a week after the film had already been on commercial release, albeit only in the capital.

Now the results of that staggered distribution are in: the film took £7,800 on its two-screen opening (before the reviews ran) and £66,700 on its 22-screen expansion (after the reviews). On the plus side, critical notices were across-the-board raves – as might have been predicted for the much-admired Cannes Palme D’Or winner. But some cinemagoers may have been discouraged by words such as “gritty”, “Romania” and “abortion”.

By screening to critics late, 4 Months found itself competing for the main review slot in the broadsheets not with Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution (out 4 January), but with 11 January release Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, Sidney Lumet’s crime thriller starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke. Either as part of a savvy release strategy or as unintended benefit, Cristian Mungiu’s gritty abortion drama dominated the reviews space on 11 January. Lumet’s picture also picked up positive notices, and grossed £118,500 from 43 screens, for an average slightly below its Romanian rival’s. Lust Caution, playing in 64 cinemas, declined a gentle 20% from its opening, and took £182,000 from 64 sites for a 10-day total of £545,000. With The Kite Runner also still playing in 197 cinemas – where it added £377,000 for a total of £1.93 million – arthouse movies are enjoying a particularly buoyant time at the moment.

Biggest new release of the week was Charlie Wilson’s War – an upscale entertainment with the impressive pedigree of director Mike Nichols (The Graduate), writer Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) and stars Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Backers Universal worked hard to position the film as an enjoyable glossy comedy, rather than a worthy “Middle East” drama, desperate for Charlie to escape the fate that befell Tom Cruise’s Lions For Lambs. Charlie grossed £1.33 million from 405 screens, as against Lambs’ opening of £658,000 from 404. On that basis, Charlie should easily take double Lambs’ final gross of £1.5 million – probably more, given that word is likely to be more positive.

The second-highest new entry on the weekend was Dan In Real Life, a relatively sophisticated romantic comedy starring Steve Carell and Juliette Binoche. Opening on 348 screens, Dan’s debut of £604,000 might be considered rather soft. Other new releases were specialist: Indian film Halla Bol took £36,000 from 21 cinemas, and Pirivom Santhipom £5,000 from three. Re-release The Lady Vanishes – a black-and-white Hitchcock classic – managed nearly £4,000 playing only at London’s BFI Southbank.

With no blockbuster openings, I Am Legend comfortably held the top spot, while at number-two, PS I Love You continued to defy the critics, declining just 19% for a second weekend of £1.47 million and a total so far of £5.23 million. Other films hanging in there are St Trinian’s (now at £9 million), Enchanted (£15 million), Alvin And The Chipmunks (£7 million) and The Golden Compass (£24 million). The top 15 films overall were 23% down on the previous weekend (a reflection of a lack of commercially strong new releases), and 10% down from the equivalent weekend from 2007, when The Pursuit of Happyness and Smokin’ Aces both opened.